Monday metatarsal musings

Posted Sep 10, 2012

Or footnotes: Despite breaking two long returns in the opener against the Cardinals, Leon Washington is not satisfied as the Seahawks set their sights on Sunday’s home opener against the Cowboys.

Leon Washington was the best thing about the Seahawks’ season-opening loss to the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday.

And one of the better things he did was offer this assessment after setting up 10 of the team’s 16 points with an 83-yard kickoff return in the third quarter and a 52-yard punt return in the fourth quarter:

“We were so close to it, being able to score points on special teams. We didn’t exactly put it in the end zone, but we got points for the offense,” Washington said in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium. “That’s our goal going into the game, to get points for the offense. But we didn’t score a touchdown. So we’re getting close. We’re working really hard. It will eventually come if you keep preparing yourself the right way.”

Definitely words to live by for all the players and coaches as they try to put the disappointing and disheartening 20-16 loss to the Cardinals behind them while forging on to Sunday’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys at CenturyLink Field.

The special teams have placed an added emphasis on getting Washington into the end zone by tweaking their approach this season. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and came tantalizing close on a punt return in 2010, his first season with the Seahawks. But he was scoreless on returns last season, when a rule change put the kickoffs at the 35-yard line rather than the 30 and opponents started game-planning to get to Washington sooner in hopes of keeping him out of the end zone.

“Ah man, Leon has been very close,” special teams co-captain Michael Robinson said last week. “That’s a big goal of our special teams this year, is to get him in the end zone as much as possible and affect field position in every game in a positive way.”

The Seahawks obviously did one while coming oh-so-close to the other against the Cardinals.

Sharing the credit are the other 10 players on the field while Washington is doing his thing – Charly Martin, Chris Maragos, Heath Farwell, Mike Morgan, Jeron Johnson, Malcolm Smith, J.R. Sweezy, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Ben Obomanu and Robinson on kickoff returns; Richard Sherman, Maragos, Farwell, Robinson, Bruce Irvin, Smith, Doug Baldwin, Morgan, Earl Thomas and Brandon Browner on punt returns.

“It’s just being more detailed on where we’re setting up some blocks and how we’re doing it,” special teams coordinator Brian Schneider said on Monday. “Really, our philosophy has been the same. It’s just trying to hone in a little bit more on the details and making sure we’re getting the right matchups as far as who’s holding up for him and who’s blocking for him.”

With that said, here’s a look at three other things that worked against the Cardinals and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for the Cowboys:

What worked
One. Producing big plays. In additions to Washington’s long returns, linebacker K.J. Wright and nose tackle Brandon Mebane combined to force and recover a fumble at the Cardinals’ 42-yard line and defensive end Chris Clemons (pressure) and Sherman (pick) got the job done on both ends to produce an interception at the Cardinals’ 34-yard line.

“Leon was a huge factor in the game, and he gave us a chance,” coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “And the plays on defense gave us a real chance to be in the football game.”

Two. Marshawn Lynch. Bad back? What bad back? If you didn’t know that the Seahawks’ leading rusher missed the final two preseason games and then was limited in practice last week because of back spasms, you never would have known the way he rammed, slammed and jammed his way to 85 rushing yards on 21 carries.

The Seahawks’ best offensive option remains running the ball, and Lynch is the best option to do it.

Three. The defense in the second half, until Kevin Kolb stepped in. On the Cardinals’ first six possessions of the second half, the Seahawks were suffocating in holding them to 19 yards and no first downs. Then, the QB who couldn’t beat out John Skelton stepped in when Skelton went out with an ankle injury and was 6 of 8 for 66 yards in directing what proved to be the game-winning touchdown – Kolb’s 6-yard pass to Andre Roberts.

Hold the Cardinals to a field goal, and the Seahawks could have won the game with a field goal on their final possession that reached the Arizona 4-yard line. Stop the Cardinals before Kolb got them going and the Seahawks would be 1-0 today.

“He just got in a rhythm and ripped some balls in there,” Carroll said of Kolb, who took the field to jeers but left to cheers. “We were all over every one of the throws. He’s a gunslinger, and he’s always been like that. He came in and was shooting from the hip and did a great job.”   

What needs work
One. Penalties. Carroll thought his team had taken steps toward cleaning up what was a season-long problem last year during the preseason (21 penalties for 186 yards in four games). Then the Seahawks were flagged 13 times for 90 wrong-way yards in their opener.

Two. The offense. The pass protection needs to be better. The run blocking needs to be more consistent. The receivers need to run more precise routes. Rookie QB Russell Wilson needs to grow from his first experience as an NFL starter.

“He was under duress,” Carroll said of Wilson, who completed 18 of 34 passes for 153 yards with the TD pass and also an interception on the final play of the first half. “This was a great first game for him. It was not easy at any time. He’ll have a better sense for what’s going to happen and the timing of it and all that.”

Three. Execution in the red zone. Four trips inside the Cardinals’ 20-yard line produced two field goals and a touchdown. Simply not good enough, especially with the game on the line and the Seahawks not able to put the ball in the end zone on four cracks after getting to the 6-yard line.

“We missed red zone opportunities,” Carroll said. “I think that probably kicking the field goals was the difference in the game.”

And the difference between being 0-1 rather than 1-0.